Romantic rejections, misogyny and a new masculinity

Perhaps one of the greatest beauties of living the “feminist lifestyle” is that it encourages those living it to be introspective, and examine life and gender politics through feminist lens. Such perspectives, it seems, can be applied to almost every situation in life – from the mundane of the romantic rejections that almost all of us, at one point in our lives, have gone through, to situations with world-changing ramification.
This piece, then, is is an exploration of the personal rather than the political, and seeks to deconstruct misogyny and the objectification of women in relations to romantic rejections and society’s constructions of maleness. It is my assertion that misogyny exists today partly because masculinity as we know it has failed men, and that to create a better, more equal world for both women and men, an introduction of a new masculinity – a change in attitudes and behaviors, is sorely needed.
Whether in the developing regions of the world or here in America and other “Global North,” developed nations, violence against women is fact of life that often gets overlooked, and when none-feminist entities look at the problem and they often lay blame on religion and religious institutions, quick in pointing the finger at Islam or religious conservatives as the culprit. But I assert that the majority of these crimes, after having looked at the statistics, is based on one very simple reason: a bruised male ego and a sexist society that continues to feed into the belief that the values of men are based on the women with whom they are (or aren’t), and more specifically, what it means to be male in the context or sexual and romantic relationships with women. In short, one of the reasons violence against women continues to take place is that masculinity as defined by the patriarchy renders men helpless in many emotional situations, causing them, instead to physically act out their aggression, rather than learning to effectively deal with the emotional challenges.

As the personal narrative often helps with understanding feminist writers’ positions and how they arrived at their schools of thought, I want to briefly share my personal narrative: I was romantically rejected recently. While we’ve all had to deal with rejections, in one form or another before, this one especially mattered to me and hit me at the core, because the object of my affection was someone with whom I shared feminist values, and because of that, I’d emotionally invested in the possibility of being with her. To be specific, it hurt because she mattered.
Through it all, I was lucky enough to have had friends to lean on – those who I could call and talk to at all times of the day, often helping me deconstruct what had happened. But in all, there were also well-meaning friends who offered advice that wasn’t so good, and although it did not take up their advice and offers of comfort, I was able to draw from the interaction the gender construction that men are supposed to abide by, in relations to romantic rejection, and I posit that such constructions are not only dangerous for women, as the statistic have shown, but on a deeply personal level, can also be extremely dangerous to men’s emotional health.
As I stumbled back home Monday night, not having slept for several days and looking deeply wounded, two pieces of advice stood out to me. The first, an extremely close friend I’ve known for years, offered that if I took a trip to California to see him, where he would take me to strip clubs for all the naked women I’d wanted. For my friend, with whom I’d grown up, graduated high school together and gone on with our lives but still remained in touch, the solution to emotional pain is rather a simple one: numb the pain by dehumanizing women, rather than working through it and risk bruising one’s ego further.
A second friend wanted to be just as helpful. Upon seeing me, he gave me a hug, exclaiming that I looked like I needed one, and then proceeded to tell me to “fuck the [pain] away.” For this friend, the solution was also quite simple: there are others in the world, thus go out and fuck as many as possible – then, perhaps then, I’d forget. Through it all, in speaking with many, many friends, a clear picture came about: friends with feminist values encouraged me to talk about it, while non-feminist friends often came up with solutions that often involved tits and asses.
So what’s the issue behind this finding? Is it that feminists have different ways of dealing with troubled times, or is it that society’s definition of romanticism and masculinity has rendered many men incapable of truly finding solutions in troubled times, and relying and falling back, instead, on solely the physical, and objectification of women, for comfort?
If the answer is the latter, and I suspect that it is, objectification and misogyny, then, are often used not just because our “physical needs” render us objectifiers and misogynists, but rather, to mask and numb the pain that society, for too long, has told men they aren’t afforded. In place of talking to friends and deconstructing, or better yet, conducting oneself in honest self-evaluation, men are taught to numb the pain, which only compounds to the situation in which they are by not giving them the opportunity to emotionally reach out to others and learning from the rejection, thereby making them better for future partners and endevors. In a very specific sense, the objectication of women, especially in times of pain, is much easier, because if women are seen as less-than-human beings, their ability to hurt (nevermind that it wasn’t their fault) becomes less.
Further, by seeing women as objects and not people, the rejected will less likely become emotionally attached, thereby preventing them from being hurt in the future.Clearly misogyny ensures that women get the short end of the stick – but make no doubt about it, men get short-changed, too.
Perhaps the most problematic practice in the male practice of dating and romanticism is that, at the end of a rejection or relationship, the encouragement to self-evaluate isn’t there, and the shift of the blame is almost always on women. If a relationship doesn’t work out, or if a rejection were to take place, the fault is almost always placed on women, for “not knowing what she’s missing,” being “coldhearted” or worst yet, having led men on.
It is this androcentricism – the belief that men could do no wrong and that the world revolves around them, that’s often most damaging, for men because it prevents them from improving as human beings, but also for women because it puts them in a position in which they are always wrong, and indeed, if someone does something wrong, they not only deserve the blame, but violence against them, the argument follows, is much more acceptable because they “had it coming.”
Another cultural belief I want explore, in dating and romance, is a sense of male entitlement. This entitlement render women choiceless – that if given enough attention, or gifts, or emotional support, that no woman could ever say no, and if she does, it’s of course, her fault. This mentality, in turn, hurts women because they are never truly given a choice, in love or lust, because it is believed women could be bought – if not with money then with attention.
In either cases, women are turned from human beings with preferences in sexual and romantic partners, into objects that will give in if someone tried long enough. It is reasons like these that we often see violence against women – not because men were born to seek out and destroy women, but because male entitlement and social constructions of masculinity dictate men must protect their own egos and hearts, and will do so at the expense of women.
The issues above, while they have to do with men, are most certainly feminist issues, because women have a stake in it, too. It has to do with feminism because way too many women have been hurt by men with bruised egos, who, in turn, also ruined their own lives. Too many women in college and high schools have been raped because their dates were brought up to think sex is a competition. Too many women have had acids thrown on their faces because men couldn’t deal with the feelings of inadequacy from a rejection. Too many others have been stoned for simply choosing to embrace their sexuality. Too many others, too, have been maimed and killed and stalked and beaten simply because a former lover or love interest couldn’t take no for an answer, not because he loved her that much, but because we never taught him to honor her choices.Too may others, too, have been hurt because they dared choose whom to love.
Within the patiarchy, men are trained to reject women’s choices. Whether they be gay or straight, women are to be there and make themselves sexually and emotionally available to men. Anything less, it seems, and women risk being stalked, hurt, burned, murdered, simply for being human beings. It is time for a new masculinity, time to change a culture that promotes the emotional comfort and sexual satisfaction of men over the lives of women.
It isn’t just women who are hurt by patriarchy’s definition of masculinity. Men, too, are hurt for the reasons above, and because without being able to emotionally cope, human beings, regardless of gender, are more likely to be depressed and hurt themselves. If the Men’s Rights Activists are truly serious about men’s health and well-being, they, too, would choose to take on issues of the constructions of masculinity. But it’s not happening because they’re neither serious nor do they really have any stake in this. For them, men’s rights is about taking rights away from women, because in their misled philosophy, women’s gain must be men’s losses.
It doesn’t have to be that way, because a new masculinity will benefit both women and men. It will make the world a safer place for women. It will truly give women freedom not just on paper, but also in their personal lives. It will enhance men’s lives and make them into more emotionally healthy human beings, the kinds who can endure emotionally distressful situations, and get through the situations and become better people, rather than the kinds who will hurt their loved ones and themselves. Clearly, a new masculinity benefits us all, and now, more than ever, must be one of our priorities in making the world a more equal, safer place for all sexes.
If feminism is about empowering women with choices, the new masculinity, and it should be included within feminist, must be about equipping men with the emotional tools to honor women’s choices.

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    Posted February 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I think your non feminist male friends were following the stereotypical American masculine script.
    That is, if your feelings get hurt by a woman, go out and have sex with other random women until the pain goes away.
    You’re kind of lucky they didn’t want to talk about your feelings, because I have sexist male friends who’ve done that for me – and it didn’t work out so well.
    Had your non feminist male friends wanted to go there, I suspect they would have told you to play “the numbers game” – make passes at as many women as possible until you find a woman who’d be willing to date you.
    You don’t sound like the kind of guy that would work for (I’m not either, BTW).
    I agree with you about respecting women’s choices – but, no matter what, if you like her but she chooses not to be with you, that is going to be painful for you (especially if she’s somebody you really care about)
    It’s how you deal with the hurt that counts.
    Incidentally, what would be your blueprint for this new masculinity that you speak of?
    Seriously, I’d like to know, because the old masculinity is seriously fucked up, but I really don’t see a viable alternative.
    In any case, I feel sorry for your loss and I’m sorry that relationship didn’t work out!

  2. aletheia_shortwave
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Great writing, Marc! Seriously, I agree with your position strongly and am really happy to see this kind of writing happening.
    Regarding Gregory’s question, I would personally venture that, like the idea of new femininity, it is counter-productive to ask for a blueprint that fits everyone. In my opinion, the answer for feminist members of either traditional binary gender categories — in addition to all the other ones (intersexed, transgendered, genderqueer, et al) — is not to decide there are certain qualities that you absolutely have to have in order to be eligible to count as a “masculine” person.
    This will come to be defined organically, through the cultural and political expression of all different people. Think of the way that the arts contributed to a new model of African-American identity after slavery — contributions which go beyond African-Americans alone and are ultimately beneficial to the entire society. That is the important thing — while jazz musicians, to take one example, had certain absolute bearings on what it means to be an African-American, this is neither absolutely restricted to African-Americans nor exhaustive of what it means to be an African-American. There are African-Americans for whom jazz is not particularly important to their identity, and there are also non-African-Americans for whom jazz is central.
    Marc said he was talking about the personal here, which is why I think the arts are relevant. We take a lot of our cues about our social interactions from the arts and culture, including about gender identity (think of the song ‘Summertime,’ for example — “Your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-looking, so hush little baby, don’t you cry.” ). Jazz was enormously culturally and socially liberatory for a specific group, but it would never have been born if there had been people enforcing a “blueprint” for it — it was Louis Armstrong who said “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

  3. aletheia_shortwave
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I think that the last paragraph I wrote could be clarified by saying we need to focus on the very creation of alternatives to a given message, like the message in summertime. Jazz was important because it threw out all kinds of categories that were considered absolute — in both music and the social identity of African-Americans — and nevertheless was recognized as great art, and nevertheless came to constitute a serious part of American culture.
    The important part is breaking out of the hegemony. Not enforcing any new models absolutely, but allowing them all to proliferate…

    Posted February 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I kind of see where you’re going here – with music as an analogy for what could be oversimplified as “do your own thing” or “be yourself” – without gender identity restricting that.
    With that said, I’ve found that it’s not always that simple.
    We all have families, and friends, and co workers and we all live in communities, and those communities might not necessarily be supportive (or might be downright hostile to) breaking the gender norms.
    When it comes to dating, I’ve found that many non feminist women are almost as invested in the concept of “traditional masculinity” as non feminist men are!
    In my own narrow experience, it’s often been women who have critiqued me for “unmanliness” (I’ve had women call me a “P***y” and a “F****t” for not measuring up to their idea of what being “manly” is).
    Not all of us live in pro feminist environments where it’s possible to be anything other than traditionally masculine.
    In my case, I’m straight, I like women sexually, and the vast majority of women I meet are not feminists – so defying traditional masculinity would tend to be counterproductive to the goal of dating women who think like that.

  5. aletheia_shortwave
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    For me, an openness to feminism in some form (whether self-identified as feminist or not, at least a recognition of the equality of women) is a necessity in my dating partners. Is the same true of you, Marc?
    I don’t want this to be harsh but I imagine that it is a function of male privilege that a man with a serious interest in feminism can even consider dating a woman who is not feminist — while my problem is that I’m infinitely more likely to be abused or degraded by a non-feminist partner. That being said, of course, the points you’ve raised bring up the issue that it’s not fun for feminist men to date non-feminist women, either, so it works both ways.
    I’m so sorry you’ve had the experiences you’ve had with women insulting your masculinity…I can’t imagine what that is like, but I can say that I totally agree regarding many non-feminist women being as much of an enforcer as traditional masculinity (and misogyny) as the average man.
    You might consider actually being more selective and looking for some progressive feminist viewpoints in those you date, so that you can even find a safe space to explore the concept of a new masculinity. At first being more selective is lonely, but once you find a community of like-minded people (and they DO exist), the difference is absolutely amazing. I am lucky because I found this at my college in Florida, a college which has been rated #1 most gay-friendly in the nation and as such is generally feminist and pro-woman. Before that, my experiences in high school were dismal. Now I can’t imagine tolerating what I put up with before.
    Thanks for your reply!

  6. Marc
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Gregory – of course it hurts, and it’s going to hurt every time. But as you said, it’s how one reacts to the hurt that counts.
    One can react with hatred and bitterness for women, choosing to numb the pain through objectification and falling further into a category of loneliness, or one can be introspective, deal with the hurt in healthy ways, and become a better person.
    As for the blueprint – I don’t think there is one single way of doing it, different things work for different people, but most certainly, engaging in a culture of objectification is not the answer, and it’ll never change or make anything better. In fact, I posit it is extremely unhealthy, especially for men.
    Thanks for the empathy. I am okay now, though. If anything, I gained a wonderful and amazing friend out of it, and it helped me developed more feminist theories based on mundane interactions.

    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Actually, this is Gregory A. Butler – Marc was the original poster – I was the person who replied to you, not him.
    Sorry for the confusion!
    In any case, it would be nice to meet feminist minded women, and maybe it is a function of male privilege that I can date non feminist women (although it’s a pretty damned dubious privilege that I would happily give up) – but, frankly, I really don’t meet a lot of age appropriate feminist minded women.
    I’m 41, African American, I live in a working class Black and Latino neighborhood in New York City, my day job is in construction and I do freelance writing on the side.
    For the past decade or so, most of the feminist women I’ve crossed paths with in my political activism have been way too young for me to date (late teens, early twenties).
    The women I meet who are age appropriate for dating (late twenties through early fifties) tend to be non political women who very much do not identify as feminist.
    Consequently, my dating non feminists has mainly been a circumstance thing, as the only feminist women I meet are usually about 20 years younger than me, and therefore too young to date.
    I’m really not sure if there are a lot of single feminists in my age range, actually.
    Add to that that I’m rather shy (I’m way more vocal when I post on line than I am in the real world) so it’s not easy for me to find like minded women.
    I would like to find a community of like minded people – but, having been somewhat burned out after 25+ years of activism, I don’t know where that space is going to be.
    Again, thanks for your time, and sorry for the mixup about identities.
    Marc’s story was very compelling, but his story and mine are a bit different.

    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    The problem is, traditional masculinity has an easy to follow blueprint – and there are lots of people who will easily be able to connect to you based on that blueprint.
    Nontraditional masculinity is a whole different ballgame – outside of some relatively small and isolated progressive circles, it’s a lot harder to make connections based on that way of being a man.

  9. Marc
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    For some reason, everyone confuses you. I called you John last week.

  10. cattrack2
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    “If feminism is about empowering women with choices, the new masculinity…must be about equipping men with the emotional tools to honor women’s choices.”
    Interesting post Marc. “Honor” means a lot in your statement. What does it mean to honor someone’s rejection of you? If by that you mean that you don’t violently/abusively try to dissuade them that’s one thing, but if on the other you simply mean you have some Yoda-like indifference about the rejection I don’t think the culprit is masculinity–its humanity. You’d have to remove your heart in order to find that kind of equanimity.
    As far as strip clubs/one night stands versus talking goes, I wouldn’t make a huge deal out of it. Traditionally men are taught to talk less, and women to talk more, but ultimately either form is a method of catharsis. Feminists are sex positive. Sex is a human need, for men & women alike. To say otherwise overturns much of feminism. No shame in sex for sex sakes. Its an entirely appropriate physical release…And while traditional masculinity may discourage men from talking to other men about rejection I find that they normally find an outlet talking to their female friends.
    Good luck w/ your search.

  11. Marc
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I never denounced sex, nor did I say there sex is inappropriate. What is inappropriate and unhealthy is the way the hurt of rejection is acted out.
    Sex is fine and dandy, but when sex and the objectification are used to deal with hurt, there’s an unhealthy component one has to truly deal with.

    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I know!
    And my screenname is my actual name! [GREGORYABUTLER = "Gregory A. Butler"] so you’d think there would be no confusion!

  13. cattrack2
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m not accusing you of denouncing sex. From your post its just not possible to determine what role it would play in this kind of situation under your new masculinity framework.
    The question we as Feminists have to answer is how do women–and men–disentangle purely physical sex from actually objectifying sex. For me personally, a one night stand is not the same as objectifying your partner, whether male or female. If we believe in things like women oriented sex shops & erotica, what is an appropriate male alternative? And as far as using sex to deal with hurt from my perspective the question is this: Are you hurting someone else in having sex? That’s a question only the individual can answer.

  14. blue
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    “and then proceeded to tell me to ‘fuck the [pain] away.’”
    Ew. I’m just in shock. This is something I’m used to hearing in the hallways at school. I would not expect this from a grown-ass adult.
    I hope what I said above does not give the impression that I’m criticizing your choice in friends. I’m just sad that someone who is presumably over the age of eighteen said this. I don’t want to be a part of a society that fosters this behavior.

    Posted February 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    “and then proceeded to tell me to ‘fuck the [pain] away.’”
    “I would not expect this from a grown-ass adult.”
    I hate to say it, but grown ass adult men talk about sex like that All The Time – it’s not just Marc’s friends, but also my friends, and probably a lot of men you are friends with too.
    They just normally never say stuff like that when a woman is within earshot.

  16. foxtrotuniform
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Interesting article. I’ll have to take issue with some things you’ve addressed. Specifically, I think you grossly over-emphasize the role of “the patriarchy” in all this. [I can't use that term anymore without qualifying it.] There is, to be sure, a current of male desire to not be emotionally involved. However, in the context of rejection, trying to minimize emotional response is not necessarily unhealthy. What you consider dehumanizing may be just an extreme expression of the usual “there’s other fish in the sea” attitude, where you group whoever rejected you with others – and if there are many of them, being rejected by one doesn’t hurt quite as badly. In fact, being able to picture oneself with someone new is a key step in recovering from rejection/breakups. While I obviously deplore the use of violence, I don’t think there’s a necessary connection between this normal reflex to minimize pain and future domestic violence.
    Similarly, I doubt that there is as much social pressure on men to avoid showing emotions. If you think about popular music, much of it depicts men coping with rejection, and usually in a positive way – men experience heartbreak, and I don’t remember anyone advocating the actions your two friends mentioned. In movies, men who act that way are generally considered flawed until they learn to positively deal with rejection and the ensuing emotions. I can’t speak on contemporary fiction, but most “timeless” fiction I’m aware of depicts its male heroes and willing to and capable of love, and never resorting to dehumanizing to cope with problems. My point is that there is very little, if any, public pressure on men to dehumanize and/or become violent in response to rejection. To argue that there is, I think, is to excuse people from personal responsibility, which people do too much as it is.

    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    “My point is that there is very little, if any, public pressure on men to dehumanize and/or become violent in response to rejection.”
    Are you sure about that?
    Because, no matter what they do in movies or “timeless literature” in real life the emergency rooms and cemeteries are filled with women who were the victims of men who got violent because they were rejected.

  18. Marc
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    To be clear – I think casual sex is fine, and do engage in it. So, I think we’re talking about two different things here.
    If one wanted to have sex for the pure physical satisfaction of sex, or for any other reasons, then fine. But it seems to me that using sex to numb the pain and to escape reality is especially unhealthy, not only for the sake of the person being rejected, but overall for everyone, simply because of the ramifications in overall human interactions.
    Not every situation warrants the same solution, but there are a lot of factors to be taken into account, and “fucking the pain away” is a knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t seem to help, but rather, further pushes the person into the darkness of the rejection.
    My point in short: patriarchy does not give men a lot of emotional options when it comes to dealing with hurt and pain.

  19. Floyd_Fino
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    You know deleting comments just because they don’t agree with your point of view is not excatly what i would call true open mindness.
    And further more to some up my original point. There is nothing wrong with stripclubs or wanted to get laid after a breakup. JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T AGREE WITH SOMETHING DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS WRONG. Accept men for who they are and not who you think they should be.

  20. foxtrotuniform
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “Because, no matter what they do in movies or “timeless literature” in real life the emergency rooms and cemeteries are filled with women who were the victims of men who got violent because they were rejected.”
    I’m aware, but you’re just assuming causality here. The fact that it happens doesn’t mean “the patriarchy made me do it and daddy didn’t hug me enough.” You can’t put the responsibility for those actions on someone else.
    A lot of crimes are committed every day – does that mean there is social pressure to murder, rape, and insider trade? Or do some people just choose to ignore social and moral rules?

  21. Marc
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    You know you’re on the wrong website, right? We’re having serious adult conversations, and no one is deleting any comments.
    Give me something more thoughtful, or go play with yourself.

  22. Anna
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    He’s right. I didn’t allow his original comment through and this one seemed to slip through the cracks (it is much tamer than the original, trust!). When a person doesn’t advance the conversation and merely insists that there is, indeed, no masculinity crisis and that patriarchy doesn’t exist is clearly acting inflammatory and doesn’t understand the main tenets of *feminism*. Sorry about that, Marc.

  23. blue
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Although the suggestion that someone should have sex to numb their pain is distressing, I’m more disturbed by the words the OP’s friend used.
    I don’t like using the word “fucking” to describe sex. It seems violent. When I hear people use the word to say other things like “I’m gonna fuck you up” and “Go fuck yourself,” it worries me that a word that is often used to belittle and humiliate people is used to describe sex (something that should not be a humiliating or belittling experience).

    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, a LOT of men talk about sex in a very violent and dehumanized way.
    I have a friend who has a tendency to describe the women he has sex with solely in terms of their body parts (as if he’s having sex with self-propelled butts and vulvas that are not attached to actual women) and yes he talks about “fucking” and in stark, harsh and violent ways – and he’s not the only guy that talks about sex like that.
    Yes, it is a very rapist-ish way of talking about sex (and I suspect a whole lot of men have that mentality when it comes to women and sex).

    Posted February 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    We live in a society.
    That society, like many others, has a long history of sexism, and treating women as property.
    This is quite well documented history, I won’t repeat it here.
    Until damned recently (I’m talking into the 1960′s) it was legal for a husband to beat his wife for disobedience.
    And, juries have a long history of acquitting men who commit violence against women – and, even if convicted, men who commit violence against women tend to be less severely treated than men who commit violence against other men or women who commit violence against men.
    Again, all this stuff is well documented, by folks a lot smarter than me, so I won’t rehash all the details.
    So, based on that information, we can assume that, to a large degree, violence against women is condoned by society.
    Not as much as it was 50 years ago, but still, to a large degree, society says it’s OK for a man to commit violence against a woman (and, in fact, it’s her fault if he does so).
    Just browse around this website’s archives, and you’ll find plenty of evidence of that.

  26. CaroJ
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    And do you call your friend out when he talks about women in this manner? Do you tell him that you find his language offensive? Do you tell him that the women he has sex with are every bit as worthy of respect as he is (moreso, I might argue)>
    If feminists, especially self-described feminist men, do not confront this type of behavior, what impetus is there for men who act this way to change?

    Posted February 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’ve tried – but the problem is that there are status issues involved.
    Among men in our society, to a large degree we are ranked by how much sex we get – and my friend is far more successful in getting women to have sex with him than I am A LOT MORE SUCCESSFUL.
    So, when I’ve objected to how he talks about the women he has sex with, he can “pull rank” on me.
    That is, his views on sex are more valid than mine because he’s more successful with women – in fact, he’s frequently told me that I should be adopt his views of women and sex, because it would lead to me having as many sexual encounters as he has!
    So, really, in the male hierarchy, his voice is far more likely to be heard on this than mine is.
    Now, if I were to become more successful sexually with women than he is, then my voice would be more important than his and he might actually listen to me – but for as long as I’m below him in that status hierarchy (in terms of him getting a lot more sex than I do), his voice is more important than mine on this topic.
    There are other areas where he does defer to me – employment, writing, political activism, business matters – because I have had success in those areas than he has, and therefore I can “pull rank” on him and he has to listen to me.
    But that doesn’t carry over to sex, where he “pulls rank” on me.

  28. The Flash
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    No way, dude. There’s nothing admirable or desirable about pioneering a pattern of gendered behavior where, when men are rejected by women, they aren’t allowed to be angry. The point of feminism isn’t to disenfranchise mens’ interests in their own emotional well-being. You *should* be angry, upset, hurt, when someone you care about/are interested in rejects you. You should try to preserve your ego. The stereotypical woman’s response to rejection [STEREOTYPICAL!] is symmetrical: being consoled by other women and watching romantic comedies that objectify men as female fantasies. What you’re pitching is a masculinity that denies men their coping mechanisms for the blow to self-esteem when they get rejected, and that’s not something you’d ever suggest should be integrated into femininity… that’s, in fact, a big part of what feminism exists to oppose.
    I’m not defending the strip club/fuck everything approach, but I am saying that a certain amount of objectification and distance is appropriate as a response to rejection, for both men and women. If you want to pioneer a masculinity that doesn’t resort to patriarchal institutions for its distancing mechanism, then you need to pioneer a paradigm of gender relations that doesn’t emphasize the man taking the risk of first open expression of interest. Granted, that’s something feminism also does, and changing the stresses associated with the hide-and-seek nature of romantic interest would solve many, if not most, instances of the behavior you’re describing. But really, the emotional health and security required to evade the phenomenon you’re worried about is rooted in needing alternative outlets. When you can come up with a way for a guy to say “she rejected me? she’s not even worth the effort/interest I originally put into her” in a simplistic, palliative way, you can substitute unhealthy tropes like strip clubs and angry promiscuity for something that fills the same niche without expressing the ancillary sentiments that go along with the paradigms that are currently in place.
    It’s NOT healthy to tell people that they should see every rejection as a valid personal criticism that should be taken to heart. It’s also not realistic to say to someone “hey, it’s just a rejection, it’s no big deal,” because, as you know from your recent experience, it’s a big deal when you care about someone, something, some idea/ideal, and you get rejected/fail/lose it/her/him. there’s got to be an emotional reaction that’s strong and self-affirming but that acknowledges what’s happened. Bottom line: failure always implies error, either in your original goal or in your approach or in you. The way to feel good about yourself while acknowledging that is to say the goal selection was the site of the failure, which is really what the strip club/sleep around reaction is: it dilutes the importance of that girl who burned you.

  29. TD
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    “men who commit violence against women tend to be less severely treated than men who commit violence against other men or women who commit violence against men.
    Again, all this stuff is well documented, by folks a lot smarter than me, so I won’t rehash all the details.”

    It is in fact well documented and it is the exact opposite of the effect you claim. Male criminals who victimize women are actually the most harshly penalized. Consider this abstract:
    “Using data for offenders convicted of three violent crimes in the seven largest metro counties in Texas in 1991, the authors find evidence that offenders who victimized females received substantially longer sentences than offenders who victimized males. Results also show that victim gender effects on sentence length are conditioned by offender gender, such that male offenders who victimize females received the longest sentence of any other victim gender/offender gender combination.”
    Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing Outcomes

  30. sawdust
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    My boyfriend and I both enjoyed this.
    Have you ever read The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity and Love by bell hooks? This reminded me a lot of that book. She talks about how patriarchy hurts men and a lot about how boys are socialized to be detached and unemotional.

  31. hellotwin
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    No one said anything about men not being allowed to be angry. The OP simply dislikes the idea that objectifying women is the way that his friends suggested he get the anger out. There are plenty of healthier, non-objectifying ways to get the anger out…working out, writing (words or music), talking with people, seeing a therapist…people can do these things and not hurt or objectify others. BTW, I personally didn’t watch any romantic comedies, in fact, I hated them even more after a crappy breakup…but I must not be a stereotypical woman…

  32. hellotwin
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    And how successful is your friend with women beyond sleeping with them? Something tells me with ideas like his, he can’t keep them around very long. Even if he has slept with more women and has a higher status (that idea makes me sick), that doesn’t mean you can’t still call him on his sexist bs. I bet if the women knew how he talked about them, they wouldn’t be too fond of the idea of sleeping with him again…or maybe that’s just my feminist mindset that thinks that…

    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, there is kind of a revolving door with him and the women he’s with – they tend to get tired of him rather quickly.
    Not to mention his view that he should be able to have sex with as many women as he wants but he’ll stop seeing a woman if he found out she’s with another man.
    And, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t like the fact that he’s telling all the details of their sexual encounters to his friends.
    Be that as it may, the way the whole male status thing works, the fact that he’s had more sexual partners than me makes him “outrank” me.
    It wouldn’t matter if every woman he ever slept with dumped him after the first night – it’s just the raw count of the number of women he had sex with that matters.
    It’s not about relationships, it’s about notches in the bedpost.
    Yeah, I know that rule is sexist and profoundly fucked up – but I didn’t make these rules, I just find myself having to live by them.

  34. CaroJ
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Not every man thinks that way… you should know that.
    You need to get yourself some different friends! Why hang out with sexist jerks? You wouldn’t tolerate your nonwhite friends making racist remarks, would you?

    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never taken a survey, so I’m not sure what the percentages are, but I suspect that many men feel that way.
    Enough men so that if I were to stop being friends with guys just because they aren’t feminist I wouldn’t have a whole lot of male friends.
    Actually, a lot of women think that way too – it’s not like feminism is the dominant way that people of any gender think in this country.

  36. aletheia_shortwave
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t confuse Gregory with Marc. Gregory had just already made it clear that he didn’t mind dating non-feminist women. I was wondering whether this was true of you, Marc, as well. Marc, I am clever enough to know you aren’t replying to your own post with a question for yourself! :.P
    Anyway, thanks to both of you for the dialogue. :)

  37. CaroJ
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t taken a survey either, but I can’t believe most men feel they achieve status from the number of women they sleep with. At least those men who’ve progressed past the frat-boy level of maturity. And I certainly don’t believe that women feel that way, whether they’re feminists or not.
    You may be right that you wouldn’t have many friends if you limited yourself to those that define themselves as feminist, but there’s a difference between not espousing feminist ideals and being a sexist jerk!

    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    You’re quite welcome!

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